Weinstein on RLUIPA’s Effect on Local Governments

Alan C. Weinstein (Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University) has posted The Effect of RLUIPA’s Land Use Provisions on Local Governments. The abstract follows.

In the absence of perfect information about how RLUIPA has affected local governments, this article argues that the courts have adopted a pragmatic approach to maneuvering in the difficult terrain that RLUIPA occupies: combining appropriate judicial deference to a legislature that enacts a neutral law of general applicability with the heightened judicial scrutiny that becomes appropriate when that same law is applied to a specific zoning approval, a circumstance that frequently allows for subjectivity, and thus the potential for discrimination or arbitrariness against religious uses, in the approval process. I conclude that: (1) until proven otherwise, the costs RLUIPA undoubtedly imposes on local governments is the price to be paid for insuring against the discriminatory or arbitrary application of land use regulations and (2) RLUIPA does not seek to establish an unconstitutional preference for religious uses, but rather a proper accommodation of religious exercise in the land use context.

Religion and Bankruptcy: Sturges v. Crowninshield

One of the activities that the CLR co-sponsored last year was the conference by our excellent bankruptcy colleagues Ray Warner and Keith Sharfman (who together run the Center for Bankruptcy Studies at St. John’s) on Religion and Bankruptcy.  You can see some discussion of the conference here, here, here, and here.

As often happens to me, I came upon a neat topic of discussion months after the conference was over.  Sturges v. Crowninshield (1819), authored by Chief Justice Marshall, dealt in part with New York’s power to create a “bankrupt” law (a bankruptcy law) or instead “whether the power is exclusively vested in the congress of the United States” pursuant to Article I section 8 which gives Congress authority to enact “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.”  It’s not my area, and so I am likely missing lots of important details (please fill them in), but I’m apprised by some bankruptcy folks that the old rule was that states could have bankruptcy rules so long as Congress did not pass a federal one, which meant that for much of the period  before 1898, states did have, and could have, their own bankruptcy laws.

Crowninshield is a long and extremely complicated case, involving the Contracts Clause as well.  But I thought to highlight one interesting piece of dicta in a later portion of the decision involving the relationship of bankruptcy and the religious ideas of the discharging of debt, expiation, and the alleviation of public misery and poverty.  Note also the natural law language used by Marshall in discussing the states’ “inherent” power to achieve these aims, as well as the way in which the Court wrestles with the problems of prison, debt, and freedom in the cultivation of good citizenship.

Read more

Wright on Neutrality in Religion Clause Cases

R. George Wright (Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law) has posted Can We Make Sense of ‘Neutrality’ in the Religion Clause Cases?: Seven Rescue Attempts, and a Viable Alternative. The abstract follows.

This Article addresses the controversial question of ‘neutrality’ as a crucial test in a number of important Religion Clause cases. The idea of ‘neutrality’ in the Religion Clause context turns out to be popular, but unavoidably incoherent.

The Article then explores seven alternative approaches to explaining why Religion Clause neutrality tests persist, despite the evident incoherence of the concept of neutrality. None of these seven alternatives, however, holds much promise for a valuable re-interpretation or rescue of the idea of neutrality.

What is needed is not a re-interpretation of Religion Clause neutrality tests, but a replacement for such tests. The Conclusion offers coherent and useful guidance in addressing many Religion Clause cases, based on a surprising adaptation of elements from the apparently remote area of Takings Clause and police power regulation jurisprudence.